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Gunmen Kill Family, Including Six Women, In Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Gunmen shot dead eight members of a family, six of them women, in an overnight raid on their home in Iraq's volatile northern Diyala Province.

The attackers then abducted two other family members, a man and woman, from the house in the village of Maamil near Balad Ruz, 90 kilometers north of Baghdad, Balad Ruz police Lieutenant Abdul Jabbar Raheem told Reuters.

He did not know who was behind it or why the family, all Arabs from the Sunni sect living in a largely Shi'ite neighborhood, were targeted a week before provincial elections seen as a key test of Iraq's growing stability.

The attack evoked memories of the tit-for-tat sectarian slaughter that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006-2007 and which has only now begun to subside, almost six years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Diyala is still one of Iraq's most violent places, a melting pot of rival ethnic Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans, each group split between Sunni and Shi'ite faiths.

Both Sunni Islamist Al-Qaeda and Shi'ite militia groups still roam Diyala under the cloak of the province's dense palm groves, after being pushed out of other parts of Iraq. Security sources said Shi'ite militants hold sway in Maamil.

Raheem said the family were refugees who had fled violence in the provincial capital, Ba'qubah. They were poor and all were working in local brickmaking factories dotted around the area.